Food ingredients

Why are My Tamales Dry?

Tamales have been in existence since time immemorial. They are an amazing dish made from masa, corn-based dough, and meat filling.

The meat filling can be of any kind, so you choose what you prefer.

Making tamales is not so difficult, as long as you follow the recipe. However, sometimes you may end up with dry tamales. If this happens to you, you can ask yourself, why my tamales came off to be dry?


There are several reasons why you may end up with dry tamales. Maybe you did not hydrate your masa properly, didn’t whip the lard, used too much water to steam, failed to use cold water in the stocks’ boiling process, or used pre-made masa.

This article discusses the various causes of dry tamales in detail. Additionally, we will discuss how to reheat the delicacy for them not to dry out, and how to fix them.

Let’s dive in.

Also, Check out: How to reheat tamales in less than 15 minutes

Possible reasons why your tamales dry up


Tamales should be creamy, moist, and savory. Even if you make the tastiest filling, your tamales will not taste good if they are dry and crumbly.

 If your tamales turn out dry, you did something wrong. Below are some possible reasons.

  1. Your masa is not properly hydrated.

For your tamales to be perfect, your masa must also be perfect. Your masa needs to be properly hydrated. If it isn’t, your tamales will turn out crumbly and dry.

Masa (a corn-based dough) is what will keep everything together. Making the perfect masa is a skill you should learn.

What is a good Masa Harina substitute? Click to Read.


It is a little bit difficult to master, but with persistence, practice, and lots of patience, you’ll master the art of making perfectly hydrated masa in no time.

If you have never made masa before, it is important that you strictly follow the tamale recipe, especially where there are instructions on making masa dough.

Perfectly hydrated masa dough should spread easily, the same way you spread jam on toast. To make your masa fluffy and light, add one teaspoon of lard and mix it in the masa.

To know whether your masa is perfectly done, dump one teaspoon of the masa in cold water. If it floats on top of the water, it is properly hydrated, but if it sinks, it isn’t.   

  • You failed to whip the lard properly.

When you add lard to your masa, you must whip it properly. The lard must be light and airy for your masa to be properly hydrated.

I recommend whipping the lard for ten minutes for the best results. If you add lard to your masa and only mix it for a minute, your tamales will turn out dry and crumbly.

Mixing the masa with lard and whipping it for ten minutes will give you creamy and moist tamales.

  • You used too much water to steam them.

One mistake that a lot of people make while cooking tamales is steaming them using too much water.

Contrary to what most people assume, using too much water does not make the tamales boil perfectly. Instead, the tamales sink to the bottom of the pot, and once the water begins to boil and eventually evaporate, it drains the lard in the tamales.

Note that lard plays a significant role in making your tamales moist and creamy, so you will end up with dry tamales if it is drained.

If you like your tamales moist, don’t use too much water to steam them.

  • You did not use cold water in the stocks’ boiling process.

You must place the stocks in cold water before beginning the boiling process.

If you use hot or warm water, the meat’s exterior will cook up very fast, but the interior will remain uncooked, resulting in a stinky smell.

Additionally, hot or warm water will break the stocks’ structure due to the sudden temperature change. Consequently, the lard drains out, and you end up with dry tamales.

  • You used pre-made masa.

Making masa can be very tasking as it takes up a lot of your time and energy. It is no surprise that you may be tempted to use pre-made masa.

The only issue with pre-made masa is that it is unreliable. For your tamales to be moist and creamy, your masa must be airy, light, and fluffy.

With pre-made masa, you can never tell exactly how the manufacturers made it, so there is no guarantee that your tamales will be moist and creamy.

Also, Read on: Why are my dumplings doughy?

How to reheat tamales so that they don’t dry out


Follow the following steps if you want your tamales to remain moist and creamy even after reheating them.

  1. Fill a stockpot with about 2 inches of water. Don’t use too much water because if you do, the steaming basket will be in contact with the water; hence the tamales will be sitting on water as they warm up.
  2. Place the steaming basket in the pot, cover it with the lid and let the water boil. Use high heat in this step.
  3. Use a pair of tongs to place the tamales in the steaming basket.
  4. Cover the stockpot, then lower the heat to medium. The tamales will be ready in approximately 30 minutes. If you were reheating frozen tamales, let them steam for 90 minutes.

If you use this reheating method, your tamale won’t dry out. It works for me every time.

How to fix dry tamales


There are three techniques of fixing dry tamales; reheating in the oven, reheating in an instant pot, and reheating in the microwave. Let’s discuss these three techniques in detail.

  1. In the oven

If your tamales are dry and crumbly, you can fix them by reheating them in the oven. To do this, first, wrap each tamale with aluminum foil.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, line the covered tamales in an oven-safe dish, and place the dish in an oven.

After twenty minutes, remove the tamales from the oven. Flip them, then return them to the oven for another ten minutes.

  • In an instant pot

You can use an instant pot or pressure cooker to reheat the tamales. In the instant pot, the tamales reach their boiling point faster without necessarily being dehydrated.

Pour warm water into your instant pot, cover it with a default filter, then let the instant pot warm up. Once it is warmed up, add your tamales and close the lid. Let it sit for ten minutes, then remove the tamales and serve.

  • In the microwave

You can fix dry tamales by reheating them in a microwave. The first thing you should do is wrap the dry tamales in a wet paper towel.


The paper towel should be big enough to accommodate all of them. By covering them with a paper towel, the tamales will steam up as you reheat them.

Place the wrapped tamales in a microwave-safe dish and place them in the microwave. Set the timer to one minute and let them reheat.

After one minute, remove them from the microwave and flip them. Return them to the microwave and set the timer to one minute once more. Repeat this process until they warm up properly.



We hope this article has solved your mystery.

The factors we have discussed above may have contributed to the dryness of your tamales. Remember to always follow the recipe for your tamales to be moist.

If you want to fix tamales, try using any of the three techniques discussed above. You may end up enjoying your tamales after all.

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